If this occurs on a national level, we could be in serious trouble.

Nurses at two of New York City’s largest hospitals walked off the job Monday morning in a dispute over pay and staffing levels after a weekend of negotiations failed to produce deals for new contracts, with talks falling apart overnight, CBS New York reported.

The walkouts began at 6 a.m. and involve as many as 3,600 nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and 3,500 at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents the workers, said it was being forced into the drastic step because of chronic understaffing that leaves nurses caring for too many patients.

“Nurses don’t want to strike. Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients,” the union said in a statement late Sunday.

At around the time the strikes began, the union tweeted a message saying, “To all of our patients, to all New Yorkers, we want to be absolutely clear: If you are sick, please do not delay getting medical care, regardless of whether we are on strike. In fact, we invite you to come join us on the strike line after you’ve gotten the care you need, adding that seeking care wouldn’t constitute crossing the picket lines. 

The hospitals had been getting ready for a walkout by transferring patients, diverting ambulances to other institutions, postponing nonemergency medical procedures and arranging to bring in temporary staffing.

Gov. Kathy Hochul urged the union and the hospitals late Sunday to take their dispute to binding arbitration.

Montefiore’s administration said in a statement that it was willing to let an arbitrator settle the contract “as a means to reaching an equitable outcome.”

The union didn’t immediately accept the proposal. In a statement, it said Hochul, a Democrat, “should listen to the frontline COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally-protected labor and collective bargaining rights.”

Mt. Sinai tweeted overnight that talks with its union members had broken off:

CBS New York says Montefiore then put out a statement of its own, saying the strike would begin at 6 a.m. and calling it “a sad day for New York City.”

“We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community,” the hospital said.

Montefiore and Mount Sinai are the last of a group of hospitals with contracts with the union that expired simultaneously. The Nurses Association had initially warned that it would strike at all of them at the same time – a potential calamity even in a city with as many hospitals as New York.

But one-by-one, the other hospitals struck agreements with the union as the deadline approached.

Nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ratified a deal Saturday that will give them raises of 7%, 6%, and 5% over the next three years while also increasing staffing levels. That deal, which covers 4,000 nurses, has been seen as a template for the negotiations with other hospital systems.

Nurses at two facilities in the Mount Sinai system also tentatively agreed to contracts Sunday. But negotiations continued at the system’s flagship hospital on Manhattan’s east side.

Mount Sinai’s administration said in a statement that the union’s focus on staffing-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we have made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global shortage of healthcare workers that is impacting hospitals across the country.”

If the nurses strike, patients are likely to see disruptions in care such as emergency room visits and childbirth.

Mount Sinai moved babies from the neonatal ICU, CBS New York reported.

The station said the tense situation left patients and their families feeling anxious.

“They don’t need this type of distraction,” Sabrena Geborde, the wife of a patient at Mount Sinai, remarked to CBS New York..

Geborde came to Mount Sinai last week with her husband, Troy, who has end stage ALS.

“My husband almost went into cardiac arrest, and when we got here the nurses and doctors did a wonderful job on him,” Geborde said.

The potential strike forced their normal hospital to divert patients, which is how they ended up at Mount Sinai.

“That’s something that you never expect to have to deal with, and having to think of, deal with that, he’s clinging. He’s clinging to life as we speak,” Geborde said, “and they’re saving my husband’s life in there and they’re inside right now helping him.”